What it rings about

September 24, 2011


There is something about Citizen Kane. That the most important thing about a man’s life, even a famous man, a tragic figure or a great man, is something obscure. Something mundane. The mundane dominates our lives. Small talk. But because we’re involved in it we don’t realize how trite it sounds. Could it be otherwise? Of course Shakespeare had great fun with the mundane. Elevating it to great comedy. In my own work I’ve noticed that the mundane reveals something about characters. But what? It rings true. But I’m not completely sure what it rings about.

……………………………….

THE ANNOUNCEMENT

Pink pigtails. Not exactly Moses. At the Red Sea. But the lovely May looked over the cash register. And up at the clock. Her bright gleaming eyes brimming as they say with anticipation. As was her retainer. It was sparkling as well. So happy. Like a sun shower in April. So many tears, her teeth were drowning. Let’s get back to that smile. It could lighten gloom. And your pocket book. Who wouldn’t pay. You see May wanted to dance. Up a staircase. On the edge. Of a blanket. Hanging over the 21st. Floor apartment. Accompanied by three young men dressed in tuxedos. Choreographed. With camera shots from the ceiling. To show her being carried on the fingertips. Of these gay young men. Light as a feather. She was. Almost like a cloud. Drifting over the fingertips of skyscrapers. Like a balcony. So splendid. So pure of spirit. And the strings in the orchestra humming. The brass section deep in a rhythm of blue. That’s enough about her smile.

May turned to Bea. The head. A little overweight. Who was helping Josephine. A small problem. Her cash register was choking. Loonies. Filling up her drawers. Too much provincial sales tax. The rich don’t like to pay. Why should they? Don’t they produce all those jobs. That pay taxes. That fill the coffers. That’s enough from the bully pulpit.

“Is it time, yet?” May’s hands grasped each other. Like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in weeks. She gasped. Wanting to rush off into her performance.

Bea smiled. Comfortingly. Like only a mother could about her youngest daughter. Only May wasn’t Bea. ‘s daughter.

May shook her head. Ringlets cascading down. Like pulp romance novels out of a garbage truck. Dumping culture into the dump. Where it had a chance to become something. And all the gulls. Landed. Reading the paperback novels. Offering positive criticism. Only Attwood belonged in the library. Of their memories.

Oh, these girls make me feel so young.

“Not yet, dear.” Bea sang. Like a restless wind. In that bottle of Coke. She could have been Jeanette Macdonald. But alas. No Nelson Eddy.

Bea was an older woman. Dyed black hair. Short. Parted in the middle. Thinning on top. There was a wart on her cheek. Several long hairs dangling. Like Rapunzel. Curling like smoke from the mouth of a frog. Beauty had begun to wane. Early for the young Bea. Moments after they cut that umbilical chord. Still Bea took pride in her appearance. And working with the two young girls, Josephine and May, that was special. There were souls to mold. Lives to direct. Almost like being seven years old. Playing at being an adult. In the back of the garage. Where uncle Ernie used to sleep it off.

May was more handsome. Than most. Some say she would have been an embarrassing man. Too beautiful for the male sex. May returned. To her cash register. A customer came up and placed her goods on the counter. May’s long red fingernails tap danced across the keys. Her toes began to tap. There was a melody sleeping in her mouth. Waiting to sing. May smiled at the customer. Glanced at the clock. With the greatest care. Placing the customer’s purchases in a plastic bag. From a distance she looked like she was humming. Some said that she was the next Shirley Temple.

“I’ve never seen a girl so excited.” Whispered Josephine to Bea. Making quite a fuss. At the other cash register. Shrugging her shoulders. Parenthesis. There’s always some good. In everyone. Even the Nazis could be cute.

Josephine held onto the notion. Rubbed it in. Under her arms. Over her breasts. In the open bathroom window. Every night. Maybe her prince was a peeping Tom. Josephine had seen a great deal of life. On the television. Its pleasures as well as its disappointments. May had a lot she could learn. From Josephine’s mouth. There was that time. At the airport. With the friendly hitchhiker. Who was trying to kill time. Flight delayed. And the time on the beach. The sun was going down. A boy on his back. And she’d had too much to drink. He was only a few years older than her. And it wasn’t true. That he was someone’s uncle. And it wasn’t true. That he was divorced. Or even married. And there were evenings. All those evenings. She chatted for hours. On the phone. With Raymond. Who became a priest. But kept using the word blessed. And told her that she would have been the only girl. For him. If it hadn’t been for the Eucharist. A wafer with a loose tongue.

Bea glanced at Josephine. Lost in her thoughts. Amongst the a priori and posteriori. It amused her the way Josephine pretended to be years older than May. The difference being only a few months.

“You’d think she was auditioning for the part of Juliet.” Josephine said. Turning. She spotted. Paul McGregor up a ladder. Placing some women’s napkins. On an upper shelf.

“I heard that.” May shouted. Inside her head. As her customer swiped her debit card. She pointed at Josephine. Bea laughed. Bea felt like a date square. Not being one. Eating one. Something small and sweet. She was growing faint.

Bea mumbled. About the cash register. Josephine nodded. Paper was stuck. Does anyone really want a receipt? What if someone accused you? Of theft. Your word against theirs. 6 months. First offense. Don’t they just throw them away? Bea wondered about Paul McGregor. Was Josephine interested in the clerk? Weren’t he and Josephine, an item? And what about Mr. Singh’s daughter? What did she and Paul have in common? She grinned. Paul is quite the Valentino. But couldn’t remember if she’d taken her Exlax that morning. Don’t want to be bound. Up.

May handed her customer her receipt.

Thank you.

She’d been trained. Well. After every sale.

“You never know.” May addressed the other two women. “The world could end. I heard of a famous actress who was discovered in a drugstore. If her, why not me? Somebody has to be famous.”

Josephine laughed. Her fingers tangled in her blonde locks. Playfully.

“Oh, let her dream.” Bea’s smile hugged her teeth.

The cosmetician, Deborah Hall, walked by. The cashiers and waved.

“She’s better than us.” Josephine muttered. “How many brains does it take to put on makeup?”

Bea shook her head. “Late again. That won’t go over well with Mr. Edwards.”

Bea moved from behind Josephine’s cash register. Over to May. She handed May a sheet of paper.

“Now read it over once,” Bea said. “Make sure you understand what you are saying. When you speak into the microphone, take your time. And don’t yell. Just talk in your normal voice.”

May took the sheet of paper and read it over once and then a second time. She looked at Bea.

“Is it time?”

Bea smiled. “It’s time.”

Josephine shrugged her shoulders in her cute manner.

“Is it afternoon or evening? I mean it’s 6 o’clock.” May looked concerned.

“It’s evening, dear,” Bea said drawing the microphone from behind the counter and handing it to May.

May took the microphone. The giddiness and childlike glee disappeared from her face. Replaced by a somber serious.

“Good evening, shoppers. Have you begun to empty out your attic for spring? Have you begun to clean those windows or vacuum those rugs. Its spring cleaning time. With all that old dust flying up in your face, don’t forget….”

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